CATALONIA’s foreign minister has told MPs that his state parliament, which is due to hold an independence referendum in September, would like it to be modelled on the Scottish referendum in 2014 – the result of an agreement between two parliaments.

However, Raul Romeva, in an address to the inaugural meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Catalonia, said Spain’s central government was “not willing to discuss it, or to negotiate it, or even to admit the existence of a real determination to be heard”.

Romeva’s visit to Britain followed yesterday’s two-year ban on former president Artur Mas holding public office for organising Catalonia’s non-binding independence referendum in 2014.

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Mas was also fined €36,000 (£31,400) at the Catalan high court; his former vice president Joana Ortega was banned from holding office for 21 months; and Irene Rigau, a former education minister, for 18 months.

The foreign minister said there were fears for the future of democracy in Spain.

“The people of Catalonia are aware of the importance of tackling great changes using democratic means, which is why there is so much concern in Catalonia with regard to the growing threat to democracy within the Spanish State.

“Today, the division of powers, one of the basic cornerstones of any democratic system, is at risk in Spain. The Spanish Government has increasingly and systematically made use of legislation and the justice system to challenge its political opponents, mounting a veritable legal offensive against any dissenting voices instead of opening discussions with the reiterated democratic requests for dialogue from Catalan institutions.”

Romeva included the cases of Mas, Ortega and Rigau in examples of the government’s proclivity for using the judiciary.

“The Spanish government has called for the debarment of the president of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, for holding a parliamentary debate on the current independence process in Catalonia,” he said.

“On December 16 last year she testified before the courts, accused of disobedience, and is awaiting sentence.

“The former president of the Catalan government and three of his ministers have been tried and barred from holding public office for two years for having promoted a consultation on independence in November 2014.

“At present there are hundreds of cases open against various town councils, mayors and councillors of Catalan municipalities for the same reasons.

“This attitude from the Spanish State weakens democracy everywhere.”

He said the purpose of the judicial system was not to abolish or restrict freedom, but to protect and extend it. A state’s institutions should not place restrictions on its citizens, but guarantee their prosperity and well-being.

“The ultimate objective of democracy is not to perpetuate an atavistic status quo but to empower its citizens to build a future commensurate with their own criteria.”

Romeva reminded the cross-party group than Catalonia had woven strong bonds with Britain and that relations had been strengthened over the years with new and constant economic, social and cultural collaborations.

“As a result, today there are more than 200 Catalan companies in the United Kingdom, plus more than 400 British companies in Catalonia; 30,000 Catalans live in the United Kingdom and some 20,000 British people live in Catalonia, and around two million British tourists visited us in 2016.”

He added a final word on the forthcoming plebiscite: “Although we aspire to winning this referendum, we are ready to lose should that be the outcome. The people’s vote is the best solution.”